Monday, October 21, 2013

Cirque Du Soleil's TOTEM: The Best Cirque Yet

On Wednesday night we were treated to an evening at Cirque du Soleil's newest show, TOTEM. We've been to quite a few Cirque productions over the years and I know I say this every time, but this version of their show was even better than the last one. And yes, I'll probably say that the next one is better than this one. Because unlike that milk in your refrigerator or those Die Hard movies, Cirque du Soleil really does get better with age.

TOTEM loosely tells the story of evolution, but don't expect just cave dwellers and ancient rituals – in a way this version of the show felt like the most contemporary yet. From the wry references to man's reliance on technology to the parody of beach culture, my teens related to this show more than before. Of course, it had nothing to do with the abundance of six-pack abs in those beach scenes.

The show felt more intimate, too. I'm not sure if it was actually a smaller stage and arena, but it was easier to see all of the performers and to follow along with all of the stories they tell using just their bodies, facial expressions and gestures. One of our favorites was a scene involving a fisherman on a lake, and it's hard to imagine being able to pick up on all of the subtle visual humor in a larger venue. (Another bonus: It was a much quicker trip to the top of the stairs to exit the arena to get to the bathrooms.)

Here's a short preview of the show. It will blow your mind, as it should:

After the show we got a huge treat – we were able to go backstage, talk to a few of the performers and see the inside workings of a Cirque production. The artists talked about their various backgrounds (they come from all over the world) how they came to join the Cirque family and their daily routines while traveling with the show. When they got to the part about having an on-site chef that kept them fed throughout the day and filled up with snacks, we were all ready to sign up.

Being backstage gave us such a broader appreciation for what a huge undertaking the show is, and how disciplined the performers are. Their costuming area is not that big, considering the huge amount of activity that must take place there. I imagine it's what I feel like having to share a bathroom with my teenage daughter, only fifty times more crowded.

I wish that everyone, especially kids, could have the chance to see a Cirque show, and especially TOTEM. The artistry and skill are awe-inspiring, and the shows have such a magical and inspirational effect on audiences – it gives you the desire to create art, to look beyond your own environment and to seek out and pursue your dreams.  Does it make one want to "run off and join the circus"? I think it might – especially if that circus comes with an on-site chef and endless snacks.

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Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM runs for a limited engagement through November 10, 2013 at the Port of Los Angeles – San Pedro, first stop of the production’s 2013-2014 Southern California tour. Following this limited engagement, TOTEM will be visiting Irvine (opens November 21, 2013 at the Orange County Great Park Festival Site) and Santa Monica (opens January 17, 2013 at the Santa Monica Pier). Tickets for all TOTEM performances are now available online at

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Halloween Time At Disneyland: Calling All Parents of Teens

It's Halloween Time at Disneyland! Definitely not for the gourd-phobic.
Last weekend we were treated to a day at Disneyland Resort to enjoy their special Halloween Time event. This is where the parks are transformed for Halloween and some of the rides get a scary makeover – Space Mountain becomes Ghost Galaxy, The Haunted Mansion turns into Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas hosted by Jack Skellington and The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror gets a few additional dead souls checking in. And of course no one does Halloween decorations better than Disneyland. (Sorry, Pinterest.)

Lately when I've mentioned to friends with older kids that we're heading to Disneyland I get the same response. Usually it's "Why?," followed by "What are you on?" Let's face it – our kids are getting older and we're – gasp – getting older too, and the prospect of a 14-hour day at Disneyland seems daunting. Crazypants, even.

But I've got some strategies for parents that can make your day at Disneyland and California Adventure just as fun for you as it is for your teens while fitting in some family time, too. Can you say guilt-free date night? And it doesn't involve any illegal substances, either.

Don't cry – you can now get your double-tall-extra-dry cappuccino on Main Street
1. Load up on coffee.
There is a Starbucks on Main Street, people. I think when I first saw this I took off my mouse ears, dropped to my knees and kissed the feet of the barista dressed in old-timey garb. No more waiting for an hour for your cappuccino at the lone coffee cart! (There's a Starbucks in California Adventure, too, but it tends to get mobbed.)

2. Make sure your phone is charged. 
You're going to need your phone for those "I'll give you more cash but twelve churros is enough," calls. Also, how else would you know to meet up at Cafe Orleans for the 9:00 Fantasmic Show, or Instagram your entire day? There are now phone charging lockers on Main Street ($2 per hour – you can see a how-to video here.) I always have spare power with me – I take along 2 Mophie juice packs to get me through the entire day.

3. Go see a movie.
That's right, you have the time to see a movie while your kids are blissfully unaware that you're indulging in 'me' time. Tell them you'll meet them after their tenth spin on the Indiana Jones Adventure, and head off for a cinematic interlude in a dark, air conditioned theater. The AMC theaters in Downtown Disney are really nice, and usually not crowded. We saw Gravity there on opening weekend and the theater was practically empty.

It doesn't have to be all chicken fingers and Cokes.
4. Have a grownup meal. And an adult beverage.
There are so many places within the parks and in Downtown Disney where you can sit down and have a nice meal and a cocktail. California Adventure's Wine Country Trattoria has a great patio where you can dine on Italian food and sip a nice glass of wine, and we never leave without having drinks and appetizers at the outdoor Uva Bar in Downtown Disney. We also love hanging out at the Hearthstone Lounge in the Grand Californian Hotel or on one of the big couches in the lobby. (Also – and not necessarily a grownup, sitdown meal – but I'm a huge fan of the bacon-wrapped asparagus at Bengal BBQ in Adventureland.)

They should rename this the Peace Train because it's the best place to get some peace and quiet.
4. Ride the train. Over and over.
I'm not kidding – if you want a truly peaceful, meditative experience at Disneyland, grab a coffee (see Starbucks revelation above), sit in the back row of the Disneyland Railroad and ride that sucker for at least two trips around the park. You'll disembark refreshed, renewed, and the with the entire script of the dinosaur experience memorized.

If you don't enjoy a good fireworks show you might just be dead inside.
5. Don't miss the fireworks or you'll hate yourself.
Whatever crazy, grownup thing you're doing at around 8:30, make sure you stop and head to Main Street to catch the fireworks. It really is one of the best fireworks displays you'll ever see, and might be one of the few things your teenagers will want to do together with you. Well, that and get coffee. (Did I mention there is now STARBUCKS ON MAIN STREET?)

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Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort runs through October 31, 2013. Click here for more information and details.

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